CHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) — “We’re certainly noticing un uptick in the availability of these pressed pills,” said Chester County Sheriff Max Dorsey.
Those pressed pills contain fentanyl – a deadly synthetic drug that’s causing an increase in overdoses in the county. Dorsey’s office says In 2019, the county had 43 overdoses. In 2020, they saw roughly a 60 percent increase with 69 overdoses.
“Our 2021 data ranges from January to July at this time. In that time period, we have had 53 overdoses. We are on pace for a 66% increase from the 2020 total,” according to an email to FOX 46.
“Our highest month this year was back in June where I believe we had about 15 and compared to other counties that’s not a significant number but for a small rural county of about 30,000 people that is a significant number,” Sheriff Dorsey says.
Dorsey believes it’s up to law enforcement and the criminal justice system to address the drug problem at the trafficker level.
“Those are the people who essentially are spreading poison on our streets, and they are taking advantage of people and their addictions and so it is our job to do all we can stop the bulk trafficking of these substances, because they are extremely deadly.”
He says it starts with the law. There are trafficking statutes in the South Carolina state code for cocaine, meth, heroin and even marijuana… but not fentanyl.
“You could have an entire truck load for fentanyl, theoretically and only be charged in South Carolina with possession with intent to distribute compared to meth – you could have a pound of meth and be charged for trafficking meth and face 25 years mandatory in prison,” he said.
He says the South Carolina’s drug laws are great because it does cause some people to steer away from drug trafficking because they see the risks.
“I don’t know if they consciously do a cost benefit analysis on should I get into drugs and if I do this is what I’m going to be facing but i do think that right now, they realize there’s a higher demand for fentanyl and even though there are risks, there are not as many risks as meth and cocaine or heroin trade,” he said.
“Where are right now is we are hands are tied, we could go out there just like this recent incident of seizing 100 pills, that subject is looking at minimal time in prison even though he’s distributing extremely dangerous drugs.. compared to someone who gets caught with methamphetamine whose looking at anywhere from 7-25 years in prisons,” he continued.
So, is a higher demand of fentanyl causing the increase in overdoses? Sheriff Dorsey says that has to be a part of the equation.
“Our request to our general assembly, is really examine this. Look at what kind of impact that fentanyl is having on our communities and lets respond appropriately with some tougher laws.”
South Carolina State Representative Tommy has a trafficking bill amending the 1976 law saying 4 or more grams of any mixture of schedule I or II drugs will be known as trafficking in illegal drugs.
Dorsey hopes that the general assembly looks at what kind of impact that fentanyl is having on our communities and responds appropriately with some tougher laws.